- WSL / Kelly Cestari
- WSL / Kelly Cestari

We delve into the past, present and future of the Corona Open J-Bay. With the women's event taking place, Kelly Slater's comeback and the World Title races wide open, has there ever been a more exciting time for the world's best surfers to be tackling the world's best wave?

Early Doors

It's unlikely that some of the Earth's earliest Homo sapiens who dwelled in the caves by the Klasies River, just 30 miles from Jeffreys Bay, ever surfed. Their fossilized remains, dated around 125,000 years old, didn't include any crude single fins made from flint. If they'd ever seen the wave, they surely would have prioritized surfing over, say, inventing rope or making clothes from tanned hides. It wasn't until the early 1960s that the early South African longboard pioneers discovered the end section of the wave. However, as time progressed and surfboards became shorter and more maneuverable, the focus soon moved up to the aptly named Supertubes. This is the barreling 400-yard section that you have mostly seen in videos and photos, and which is the home of the Corona Open J-Bay.

Welcome to the finals day of the Corona Open J-Bay. J-Bay: Pumping since the dawn of time. - WSL / Pierre Tostee

The Benchmark

Jeffreys Bay is universally known as one of, if not, the best wave in the world. More than that, it serves as a benchmark for every other surf spot on the planet. This wave (or series of interlinking waves) has everything any surfer could ever need, with the possible exception of warm water. When a six-to-eight foot swell is being airbrushed by a light southwest wind, the premier section of the break, known as Supertubes for good reason, throws up some of the most perfect, powerful tubes on the planet. Six-wave sets roll in, each one a mirror image of the last, with incredible tubes the norm. It's also a known scientific fact that you will never travel as fast on a surfboard as on a six-foot wave at Supers.

Pumping overhead conditions greeted the Corona Open J-Bay at Supertubes, Jeffreys Bay, South Africa. Supertubes in full flight. As good as surfing gets. - WSL / Kelly Cestari

That Country Feeling

An international surf event, the Beach Hotel Classic, was first held in 1981, won by J-Bay standout Shaun Tomson. Country Feeling, a local surf shop, took over the naming rights the next year and with a few gaps held an event there up until 1996. The 1984 version is the most remembered, courtesy of a backhand surfing display by Mark Occhilupo that still remains the standard 35 years later. In 1996 the CT version was reborn with Kelly Slater claiming the first of his four victories at Supertubes. In 2010 Jordy Smith became the first South African to claim a CT win at home, a feat he repeated the next year. There was then a three-year CT hiatus, which prefaced a domination by Mick Fanning that included two victories, plus that Final interrupted by the shark. In 2017, in perhaps the best conditions seen ever throughout the event's illustrious 37-year history, Filipe Toledo became the first Brazilian to claim the Corona Open J-Bay.

Can Toledo Repeat His Dominance of 2017?
Behold, the high-flying Brasilian's remarkable journey to the Final at the Corona Open J-Bay.

The Women's Overdue Arrival

The women make a long, overdue and welcome arrival to the freight train canvases of Jeffreys Bay. Previous form becomes irrelevant. Marks's inexperience therefore won't be a factor and having channeled her inner Occy to do well at Bells, she will be dangerous. Tuberiders and stylists should do well and frontrunners Steph Gilmore and Lakey Peterson tick both boxes. Tyler Wright has clocked up freesurfing time in the lineup, logging her first sessions last year with guidance from her brothers and Mick Fanning. However, it's a brave new world, with a clean slate. The world's best women surfers will finally be surfing the world's best wave. Anything is possible.

Winning Is a Habit

A look through the CT winners' list sees that winning can become a habit. Of all the victors, only three have failed to claim multiple victories at the wave. Kelly Slater, Jake Paterson, Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson and Jordy Smith have all scored at least two wins in South Africa, proving that winning J-Bay has muscle memory. Kelly Slater who will be making his comeback at the wave where he injured himself last year, and will be gunning for a historic fifth win there. Good news for Toledo, the defending champ who, despite the pedigree of sole victors such as Andy Irons and Taj Burrow, won't want to stay as a one-hit wonder at the J-Bay Corona Open.

Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay South Africa Jordy Smith claims back-to-back win in 2011. - WSL

Punks vs. Gods

"My impression of those guys after watching them on video for so many years at J-Bay was that they were all Gods, and I was just some punk kid." That was Joel Parkinson reflecting on his win at Jeffreys Bay as an 18-year-old wildcard 1999. Over the years, though, this event had seen many examples of God-slaying, usually led by local wildcard Sean Holmes. Holmes was labeled "The Nemesis" after defeating Andy Irons three times, when the latter was at his peak. The last time Holmes surfed the event, in 2010, he defeated Kelly Slater. With the current World No. 7 (yes, that's No. 7 on the Championship Tour, by way of wildcard points) Mikey Wright taking one wildcard spot -- and the other spot going to the highest-ranked South African surfer on the Qualifying Series after Ballito next week -- there's no reason to suggest that the punks won't be upsetting the Gods this year.

Sean Holmes Wildcard destroyer Sean Holmes gouges a turn at his homebreak. - WSL

Past CT Winners
1996: Kelly Slater (USA)
1998: Munga Barry (AUS)
1999: Joel Parkinson (AUS)
2000: Jake Paterson (AUS)
2001: Jake Paterson (AUS)
2002: Mick Fanning (AUS)
2003: Kelly Slater (USA)
2004: Andy Irons (HAW)
2005: Kelly Slater (USA)
2006: Mick Fanning (AUS)
2007: Taj Burrow (AUS)
2008: Kelly Slater (USA)
2009: Joel Parkinson (AUS)
2010: Jordy Smith (ZAF)
2011: Jordy Smith (ZAF)
2014: Mick Fanning (AUS)
2015: Interrupted
2016: Mick Fanning (AUS)
2017: Filipe Toledo (BRA)

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